Girl Guide Cookie Upcycle

Girl Guide cookie upcycleI was in charge of snack for Girl Guides on Monday night. I was going to send fruit skewers and Girl Guide cookies that we had left over from our fall sales. We only have two boxes left, but thought it would be nice to finally get them out of the house.

After work, I headed to the store to pick-up fresh fruit, but quickly realized that I was not feeling “up to” preparing the skewers. Like most Manitobans, I am suffering from a debilitating case of “I HATE WINTER” and did not feel like cutting fruit and preparing skewers for 14. Instead, I opted for something much simpler ~ 2 boxes of yogurt tubes. I made by purchases and continued my drive home. Enroute, I was feeling a bit guilty about my lame snack and had a brain wave. I thought of a super simple way to kick the Girl Guide cookies up a notch and make them a little more Valentine…ish. Now, this is not about flavour because the cookies are already very good for boxed cookies, it was more about not feeling like a complete loser by bringing yogurt tubes and leftover Girl Guide cookies for snack.

Girl Guide Cookie Upcycle:

I happened to have everything on hand and didn’t have to make any icing, so these literally took 10 minutes to whip up.

Ingredients:

  • one box of Girl Guide cookies (mint flavoured)
  • butter icing (I am guessing a generous 1/2 cup)
  • chocolate (I had a few red wafers on hand for Valentine’s Day and I think I melted 5 of them in the microwave.)
  • sprinkles

Method:

  1. Break 3 cookies into small crumb-like pieces (I used my food chopper).
  2. Ice the remaining cookies (I actually had left over icing in my fridge, so this was quick – otherwise, just make a very small batch of butter icing)
  3. Sprinkle the broken cookie crumbs on top of the iced cookies.
  4. Drizzle melted chocolate on top.
  5. Add sprinkles.
  6. I had left over candy corn and added one to each cookie as well.

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Valentine’s Day Candy Corn Oreo Cookie Bark

You might remember my October post on making Yummy Halloween Candy Corn Cookie Bark. This is a super easy holiday treat and now with the candy industry making candy corn in various colours specific to the holiday season, you can change-up the candy corn to fit with any theme.  I can’t promise all of these colours will be available in your local area, but Bulk Barn usually carries a bit of a selection for specific holidays.

It seems like we have a busy week ahead of us. I am in charge of the snack at Eden’s Girl Guides on Monday, a school bake sale on Friday and a possible class party that we will need to send goodies for. I am not 100% sure how many things I will need for all of the events this week, but I decided to spend a few hours baking on Sunday afternoon, so that I would be somewhat prepared.

CANDY CORN OREO COOKIE BARK

Here is a standard recipe, just change up the candy corn colour to make it fit with the colours of the season! Please visit Leigh Anne’s site for her detailed tutorial.  Great job Leigh Anne!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 14 whole Oreos, broken up
  • 1 1/2 C pretzels, broken into pieces. I used the small stick pretzels
  • 1 lb. white chocolate melting discs (I used about 1 1/2 pounds for mine and really find that the extra chocolate is needed.)
  • 1 C candy corn (colour of your choice)
  • sprinkles, edible sequins or coloured sugar in the colours of your choice (Bulk Barn has a great selection.)
  • coloured chocolate wafers (sometimes I will melt a few coordinating coloured wafers to drizzle over the top as well)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Cover a large cookie sheet with wax paper
  • Mix the broken cookies, pretzels and about 3/4 C of the candy corn in a bowl
  • Spread the candy mixture onto the waxed paper
  • Place white chocolate in a container and microwave for 1 1/2 minutes
  • Stir and then microwave for another 30 seconds until melted and smooth
  • White chocolate melts faster and burns easier than chocolate
  • Drizzle the melted chocolate over the cookie mixture, spreading with spatula to coat evenly
  • Sprinkle remaining candy corn and coloured sprinkles over the chocolate quickly before it sets
  • Place the cookie tray in the refrigerator until set and firm
  • Remove and gently break bark into small pieces
  • Store in air tight container or place in cellophane bags if you wish to share!

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You Can Do It! – Cake Pops Made Easy

I need to make a confession. While others rave about Starbucks and the quality coffee they serve, you won’t find me going through the Starbuck’s drive-thru unless I have a craving for one of their Cake Pops. As previously mentioned, I am somewhat of an icing “connoisseur”. I love icing and the more the better. I actually can’t believe it took so long for someone to come up with the idea of combining the icing and cake. A cake pop is literally win-win, everyone gets the equivalent of a “corner piece”. If made correctly, the cake pop is super moist and absolutely delicious, without an offensive amount of icing.  I have wanted to try making cake pops for a long time, but two things held me back:

  1. Failure: I heard so many horror stories about how hard they were to make and how long it took to make a batch. I didn’t want to go to all the trouble only to have them fall apart and be a major fail. (Especially if I was making them for a special occasion).
  2. Success: What if I make them and they turn out so well that I want to make them all the time? It is easy to resist what doesn’t exist. I rarely eat cake pops simply because they aren’t all that accessible. If I can make them successfully, I may be doomed!

I decided to give them a whirl for my daughter’s birthday party. My thinking was this. She was only having 4 girls over, so I only needed to make about one dozen cupcakes for the party. The recipe I made was large enough for 24 cupcakes. I basically made the entire batch into cupcakes and then made frosted only enough cupcakes for each of the 5 girls plus Tim, Shay and myself and few extras. I knew that 8 cake pops would be manageable and if they failed, it wouldn’t matter as they were just going to be added to the loot bags. I basically used the additional cupcakes to make the cake pops needed, so it wasn’t an overwhelming number for my first attempt.

How to Make Cake Pops:

I found a really great tutorial that was very helpful. Check out Divas Can Cook for the full tutorial.

My Experience:

  • I used 7 cupcakes to make 8 cake pops, I would never have guessed that the amount of cake in a pop was close to equivalent to that of a cupcake.
  • Crumble the cake with your hands, so that all of the larger lumps are out. You want fine crumbs.
  • Use only a small amount of icing. I didn’t actually measure, but I am guessing I used no more than 2 to 3 Tablespoons of icing for all 8 cake pops.
  • Form balls that are uniform in size.
  • Dip the “stick” in melted chocolate and stick about half way in. Set the pop upside down on a plate with the stick in the air. Freeze for about 20 minutes (or longer).
  • Dip the entire ball in melted chocolate. (I melted mine in my microwave.) You want to make sure that the container is deep and narrow so that the chocolate is deep enough to submerge the pop in.
  • Remove the pop and gently turn the ball to avoid it from dripping all over. Basically, try to “catch” the dripping chocolate at the base of the ball.
  • You can add sprinkles to the top or actually roll the ball in them.
  • Stick into a styrofoam base that you have prepared ahead of time.

Summary:

I was literally able to make all 8 in about 20 minutes (plus the freezing time). They were super easy to make and I didn’t have any “do-overs”. They all worked fine on the first try. The chocolate outer shell held up well and they didn’t crack at all. The flavour was great and I’m certain I’ll be making these again!

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Aunty Myrna’s Oatmeal Shortbread Cookies

Oatmeal Shortbread CookiesThese cookies are like shortbread and matrimonial cake (date squares) all in one. Yummy! I don’t make these very often because the batter is dangerously delicious.  I can’t honestly say how many cookies this makes because I ate far too much cookie dough and made two different sized cookies. Being “sandwich” cookies, you need two cookies for each one. I ended up with 30  1 1/2″ cookies and 40 1″ cookies . The cookies do  not “rise”, so the size you cut is what you end up with and they can be placed quite close on the baking sheet.

Oatmeal Shortbread Cookies:

Ingredients:
1 lb. softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups of flour
4 cups of oatmeal

Instructions:

Use your hands to mix the ingredients in a large bowl. Flour your counter well and knead the dough until it is rollable. (I sandwich a lump of dough between two sheets of parchment paper and use the rolling-pin on top of the parchment paper. This really helps to avoid the dough/cookies getting stuck on the counter or gooping up the rolling-pin.) Use a cookie cutter to cut the cookies into about 1 1/2″ circles and cook at 350 degrees for 8 to 12 minutes. (I like mine slightly under-cooked so I baked mine for 8 minutes.)

Date Filling:

1 lb. dates
1 1/2 cups of water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Boil and stir until thick with most of the lumps gone. Cool the mixture a little and fill the cookies. (I am able to fill all of the cookies with half of a recipe of the filling, but clearly, my cookies then only have “half the filling”. I don’t put much filling in mine, but also don’t feel that they are lacking.)

As an alternative, you can fill the cookies with butter icing or jam. I have never used jam, but icing is always a hit!

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Yummy Cookie Dough Truffles with Sea Salt

Anne's Cookie Dough Truffles

Anne’s Cookie Dough Truffles

Okay, this post is definitely not intended for those of you that dazzle your guests with homemade truffles every holiday season. I am a newbie! I have never even attempted to make truffles before, probably because I was so afraid of  failing miserably. I have done a few things with melted chocolate before and I have found my skills to be a bit hit and miss. I hate waste and worried about ruining a whole batch of truffles. However, when I saw this recipe for a cookie dough truffle, I just had to face my fears and give it a try. Traditionally, I usually only bake cookies when I have a desire to fill  up on cookie dough. It is rarely about having cookies in the house and more about satisfying my craving for raw dough. So, with that in mind, what could be more amazing than a cookie dough truffle with a hint of salt. I love that whole salty sweet trend that is the rave right now, and these truffles did not disappoint. I am not going to say that these are super easy to make, but they  weren’t too difficult either. I was struggling a bit, but figured out a simple solution that made the process much easier and less frustrating. I will share it later in the post.

Cookie Dough Truffles with Sea Salt

Anne Thorton shared this delicious recipe on the Food Network and I followed it exactly. If you get all worked up over raw eggs then this recipe is not for you. Over the years I have eaten more than my share of raw cookie dough (with raw eggs in it) and have never gotten sick. Anne posted a warning at the end of the recipe and I have included in my post as well, but if you are concerned don’t bother making these. However, you need to know you are passing up one incredibly scrumptious treat.

Ingredients:
1/2 recipe Chocolate Chip Blondies (I think you could use your standard Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, but I did use the recipe that follows at the end)
2 bags semi-sweet chocolate chipits (about 3 cups), melted over double boiler for dipping (I melted mine in the microwave, but you need to do so in short spurts and stir in between. My microwave actually has a “melt chocolate setting”, so it is easy to do and less to clean-up after)
Fleur de sel, for decoration (coarse sea salt)
toothpicks for dipping

Anne suggests several other options for decorating instead of dipping the balls in chocolate, but I stuck with the dipping and sea salt and they turned out well. Being my first attempt, I really wanted to keep it simple and knew I would like the salty/sweet contrast.

Directions:
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop out 1 heaping teaspoon of chocolate Chip Blondie mixture and roll it into a ball. Place onto the parchment paper and repeat with the remaining batter. Cover with plastic wrap and place into the freezer for at least 2 hours and up to 1 week. (Keep the cookie dough balls in the freezer until needed prior to dipping in the chocolate, otherwise they will melt into the chocolate when they are dipped.)

Remove 1 baking sheet of truffles from the freezer and skewer your toothpick into the truffle ball and dip into the melted chocolate. Use a spatula to paint the chocolate onto the toothpick and place the truffle back onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Remove the toothpick and cover up the hole. Sprinkle the truffle with some fleur de sel. Finish dipping all the truffles and garnish with desired toppings. Place them into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to let the chocolate to set up. They will keep for 1 week in refrigerator.

Cindy’s Tip: I was a little frustrated trying to dip the ball nicely and found that the end of the ball opposite the toothpick looked nice, but the “bottom” of the ball around the toothpick ended up not looking as nice. I really wanted this to be the bottom of the truffle, but couldn’t slip the toothpick off and get the less pretty part sitting on the bottom. But alas…I figured out a solution (the pros can ignore this as I am sure you have your own little system). I set my parchment paper on my wire cooling rack which sits about 6 inches off the counter. With the toothpick pointing down and the ball on top, I carefully poked the toothpick through the wax paper and the bottom of the cooling rack. I then pulled the toothpick from beneath the rack and right out of the ball. It allowed me to have the toothpick hole on the bottom and the nice smooth surface on the top. Once I figured this out, I was able to work much faster and they turned out better. I didn’t even bother filling in the toothpick hole on the bottom of the truffle.

Chocolate Chip Blondies:

Ingredients:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch fine sea salt
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Method:

Beat your butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until it is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the brown and granulated sugars a little bit at a time, pouring them in on the side of the bowl. While you’re adding your sugars, stop the mixer occasionally and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure that everything is fully mixed. Cream the butter and sugar mixture until it is light and fluffy, about 8 minutes. (Creaming creates air pockets in the dough, and therefore these Blondies have a light and delicate texture.)

Whisk your flour, baking soda and sea salt in a bowl. Add your eggs 1 at a time, adding the second only after the first is fully incorporated. Once the second egg is fully incorporated, add your vanilla. Turn your mixer down to low-speed and slowly add the flour/baking soda/sea salt mixture. Once the dry ingredients are fully incorporated into the wet ingredients, add in all those chocolate chips. Your machine will seem to be struggling to mix in the chocolate chips because there are so many of them, but don’t turn it up, leave it on low and allow it to fully mix the chips in.

* Raw Egg Warning: There is a slight risk of salmonella or other food-borne illness when consuming raw eggs. To reduce this risk, it is recommended that you use only fresh, properly refrigerated, clean grade A or AA eggs with intact shells, and avoid contact between the yolks or whites and the shell. For recipes that call for eggs that are raw or undercooked when the dish is served, use shell eggs that have been treated to destroy salmonella, by pasteurization or another approved method.

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Santa Cookies

I haven’t made my Santa cookies yet this year, but have made them for the last few years. I use my basic brown sugar recipe and a heart cookie cutter. These sugar cookies are super moist and chewy, so it is my “go to ” recipe for cookie decorating. The down side is that you do have to be a bit careful with the cookies so they don’t break. When I decorate cookies that require more time, I generally will not do a full batch. I will make a few dozen and add one or two to a baking tray, or if I am sending them to school, I will make a class set. They take quite a bit of time to make and some times the fun is lost when you have already decorated 4 dozen and still have 24 cookies left to do. I find that I do a better job when I decorate the cookies in a variety of ways. I get bored easily and like to switch it up, so will often used a few different cutters within the same batch of cookies.

Santa Cookies

Ingredients:

  • Brown Sugar Cookie Recipe
  • Heart shaped cookie cutter
  • icing (I often use a buttercream icing, but you could use the Royal Icing recipe as well)
  • red coloured sugar crystals (Bulk Barn)
  • red and brown mini M & M’s (I buy these at Bulk Barn and carefully pick through to get mostly brown and red with the scoop – no fingers, of course!)
  • red candy sprinkles

Method:

  1. Cover the tip of the heart with icing and then add the red sugar sprinkles to cover it completely.
  2. Pipe on the fur on the hat, pom pom and the beard around the two round parts of the heart.
  3. Carefully set in two of the red candy sprinkles to create a mouth for your Santa.
  4. Use Royal Icing or melted chocolate to glue the M & M’s on for eyes and a nose.

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Cashew Almond Chocolate Crunch

I had cut this recipe out of Chatelaine about two decades ago…seriously, I haven’t had a subscription since I first started teaching. (Too bad I am old enough to actually count back in decades…UGH!)  Anyways, have never made it, not once. I often make something called Almond Roca. I had totally planned to make it again this year (and may still), but came across this recipe and thought I might try something new. It was super easy to make and turned out to be very tasty. Although it is not the same as Almond Roca, it somehow seems similar to me. I think the recipe might have originated from Hershey’s, but I couldn’t seem to find it to post the link.Cashew Almond Chocolate Crunch

Cashew Pecan Almond Chocolate Crunch

Ingredients:

1 350g package of semi-sweet chocolate chipits

3/4 cup coarsely chopped cashews (I used pecans because I had them on hand)

3/4 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons corn syrup

Method:

  1. Line 9″ square pan with foil, extending over the edges. Grease foil. Cover the bottom of the pan with the chocolate chipits. *You may want to reserve a few to sprinkle on top at the end.
  2. Combine remaining ingredients in large frying pan. Cook the mixture on low, stirring until butter has melted. Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly until mixture comes together and turns light golden in colour.
  3. Pour the hot mixture over the chocolate chips. Spread evenly. (I sprinkled the top with a few extra almonds and chocolate chips.) Cool until chocolate is firm. Remove from pan. Peel off foil. Cut or break into pieces. Store in a cool, dry place.

Makes about 1 1/2 pounds of candy.  I am not sure, but I think this might be impossible to mess up. It was so easy to make and very yummy alternative to the Almond Roca that we usually make.

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Cookie Decorating Stage 2

I committed to dropping off a tray of baking in appreciation for all of the hard-working teachers at my children’s school, but haven’t had time to get my baking done yet ~ so a marathon it is! I picked up supplies on the way home from work last night, whipped up some left over burgers from the night before and began a baking blitz around 6:45 p.m. I made a couple of our favourites….Chocolate Fudge and  Peanut Butter Marshmallow Squares. I also tried a few new recipes…Red Velvet Brownies with Cream Cheese Icing, Cashew Almond Chocolate Crunch and Cookie Dough Truffles. (I will let you know how they turn-out as I haven’t sampled anything yet!) I had already made my Brown Sugar Cookies, Stained Glass Cookies and Shortbread, but still needed to decorate them. For the sake of time, I only decorated a few of the Brown Sugar Cookies for the platter I will be sending to the school today. (Thank goodness it is my day off).

The Finishing Touches:

decorating tipOnce you have created a nice smooth surface using the Royal Icing recipe I shared yesterday, you want to let your cookies set. I popped mine in the freezer until I was ready to add the decorating details. You are now ready to do the fun part ~ decorate! My husband thinks I am crazy, but I really love to decorate and cookies are no exception. I can literally spend hours completing a batch. Unfortunately, in order to get this platter ready, I don’t have that kind of time. It took me about 15 minutes to decorate these cookies. I used my Pampered Chef Icing Set with a Wilton Round Tip #2. I only had a small amount of Royal Icing left from when I completed the surfaces of the cookies and it was already in the tube and ready to go (the recipe makes a large batch, but we had used it for making gingerbread houses, so it was just what was left over). I stored the left over icing in the actual tube in the fridge, but wrapped it in cellophane so that the icing would not dry out through the tip. It did not harden at all and worked well. I don’t like much colour on my Christmas cookies. I tend to keep things fairly neutral with a splash of colour here and there. When you stick to a simple colour scheme, decorating is super easy. This year, I chose to do white on white. I piped random markings on each of the cookies with no set plan. I just had fun and tried different ideas. Some look better than others, but you can see how the simple scheme helps to hide my mistakes as well. The only other embellishments I added were those tiny silver/pink candy balls and a bit of clear decorating sugar.

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Cookie Decorating

Did you ever wonder how you get that beautiful smooth surface on a sugar cookie? It is actually relatively easy to do. The key to getting that look is using Royal Icing. It dries hard and smooth, and makes a great surface for piping or adding extra detail.

Royal Icing Recipe

Ingredients:

3 egg whites
4 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 Tablespoon water
1 Tablespoon corn syrup

Beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat well. Add the balance of the ingredients and beat until glossy.

Creating the Smooth Surface:

  1. Using a small round tip (#1), pipe around the exterior of the shape you wish to fill with some of the prepared icing.
  2. Take a portion of the Royal Icing you prepared and place it in a separate bowl. Thin it with water, adding only a few drops at a time. The consistency you are looking for is slightly runny. To check if you have the right consistency, use the “10 second rule.” Drag a spatula through the frosting to make a path. Count how many seconds it takes for the surface of the frosting to fill the path and become completely smooth again. It should take approximately 10 seconds… if it takes more time than that, your frosting needs more water added. If it takes less time, your frosting is too thin and you will need to stir in additional icing sugar to thicken it. This icing will be used to “flood” the interior of the piped shape. You can either carefully drop it from a spoon into the piped area and spread it to the edges, or fill a decorating bottle and use a round tip #2 to fill (flood) the interior. For a more in-depth tutorial, check-out this link.
  3. You will want to use a toothpick to pop any air bubbles that appear on the surface. It also helps if you very gently tap the cookie on the counter to help the icing smooth out nicely before setting.

Once the cookies have been flooded and the air bubbles removed, you will want to let the cookies set for several hours before adding any additional details to them.

*This icing is also ideal for holding the pieces together when making a gingerbread house.

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Stained Glass Cookies

I have seen many pins on Pinterest highlighting Stained Glass Cookies. I have never tasted a stained glass cookie, let alone made them, but really wanted to see if they were as simple as the instructions imply. Like most people, I have a basic list of recipes that I make every Christmas, but often add one or two new ones to the mix. In reading over several of the recipes, I noticed that the cookie itself seemed to be a pretty basic sugar cookie type of recipe. I have used the same Brown Sugar Cookie recipe for years and seldom try others, because these are so yummy. Of course, the finished cookie is slightly brown (darker) than a standard sugar cookie. I decided to use my own Brown Sugar Cookie recipe and then add the “stained glass” to it.

Brown Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup of butter
1 cup of  brown sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 egg
2 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

Method:

Preheat the over to 360 degrees. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, so that the dough is easier to work with. Flour your counter top and roll out dough. Press with a cookie cutter. Bake for 6 minutes.

Tips:

When rolling cookies, I use two sheets of parchment paper and stick the dough between them. I then roll out the dough by rolling on top of the top sheet. This creates a beautiful smooth texture and prevents the dough from sticking to the rolling-pin (if the dough seems to be super sticky, you may need to add a bit of flour or corn starch to the parchment paper to prevent it from sticking to the paper, but this is generally not necessary). Peel off the top layer and proceed to cut the cookies. I also find that it is super easy to remove the cut cookie from the parchment paper and transfer it to the cookie sheet. This avoids that mushy mess you get when you try to remove the cut cookie directly from the counter.

Sometimes I even roll my dough directly onto my stone. Place a layer of parchment paper over top and roll out the dough to cover the entire sheet or stone.  Cut the cookies so that you are leaving ample space between for baking. Once cut, peel off the extra dough from around the pieces and your cookies are on the tray and ready to go directly into the oven with no need to transfer them!

Stained Glass Cookies:

To make the stained glass cookies, simply use another cookie cutter (something small) to cut out the center of your cookie. (I was thinking that the base of a decorating tip would work well, but I didn’t think of it until after I had started mine, so I stuck with what I had started with).  Set the cut-out cookies (with holes in the middle) onto a foil lined baking sheet. Fill each hole with a mound of broken hard candies. I used Jolly Ranchers. I also tried one with a broken candy cane, but didn’t really like the look. Follow the baking instructions for the cookie recipe and let cool completely on the tray before attempting to remove them. Decorate as desired. I piped on some left over Royal Icing I had on hand from the gingerbread houses we made at youth group on Friday night. I found one star cookie in Google images that I really liked. I used it for my basic plan and then just got creative and did my own thing. A little whimsical and a whole lot of fun!

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